Former McArthur Island golf course should be multi-use space, says city rec committee

The city’s parks and recreation committee is recommending the former McArthur Island golf course become a multi-use space, complete with a disc golf course.

On Thursday morning, the committee voted to have city staff pursue budgeting and prepare a report to council, with the goal of a shovel-ready project to begin in the summer of 2019.

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Committee members said they were pleased with work done by city staff to appease concerns raised by the Kamloops Naturalist Club, which maintains disc golf is incompatible with a nature park they envision for the 7.5-hectare site.

“It shows inclusiveness, of everything being able to work together,” parks and recreation committee member Dino Bernardo said.

City nature park crew leader Kirsten Wourms recently travelled to the Lower Mainland to visit multi-use parks and investigate concerns surrounding environmental damage, wildlife safety and issues over mixing passive and active spaces.

Wourms visited Queen Elizabeth Park, Quilchena Park, Shawnee Mission Park and Dale Ball Passive Park.

The biggest issues, she said, were dog-related, with users complaining about off-leash canines and feces. McArthur Island, however, is already off limits to dogs.

Wourms said Dale Ball Passive Park in Langley offered the best example of a passive multi-use park, complete with wide natural pathways, a disc golf course and passive park space. Seasonal schedules accommodate nearby water levels.

“This is exactly what we’re envisioning for McArthur Island,” Wourms said.

KTW reached out to the Township of Langley to inquire as to how its park functions.

Al Neufeld, deputy director of public spaces, said disc golf was added to the 30-acre naturalized gravel pit about a decade ago.

The park has a trail around its perimeter, with naturally treed-in areas and a disc golf course in the centre. Impacts of the disc golf course, he said, have included better surveillance, more park usage, park cleanup parties and increased interest in the sport.

“Based on the success, we’re working with them [disc golf association] and we’ll have a brand new course next year,” Neufeld said.

Neufeld said passive park space is compatible with a disc golf course and noted disc golf players are “very respectful” of other park users.

He noted, however, disc golf fairways going through treed areas have resulted in “some trampling of the ground.

“Beyond those fairway holes, there’s thriving native vegetation and, certainly, the tree cover is not impacted by the disc golf course,” he said.

Wourms said course design would mitigate concerns, with the city benefiting from starting from scratch.

Disc golf baskets could be placed away from mature trees or points of interest, for example. The course could also be temporarily closed to accommodate nesting owls.

“We have tried to listen to all of the concerns of why not multi-use?” city civic operations director Jen Fretz added.

Council representative Donovan Cavers said proactive approaches to issues such as homeless camps are preferable to bylaw enforcement, comparing it to a city mural program to mitigate graffiti. He suggested asking the school district for funding and creating a partnership with schools to promote nature education and the sport.

Kamloops Naturalists Club director Jesse Ritcey attended the meeting and was not appeased by the city’s efforts.

“It’ll impact 100 per cent of the area,” Ritcey told KTW.

“When you throw a disc, it can go anywhere. So you can’t really map out sensitive areas because you have no way to control that. Missing from the presentation was any mention of flowers and other natural elements the naturalists feel are important.”

As a result, he said, the club is preparing a dissenting report for council.

“There’s certain areas where you can’t step on because you’d be stepping on duck eggs or frogs, or that certain thing,” Ritcey said.

“There will be certain areas where you can’t go, but the rest is interactive. It’s about getting that nature protection. So, it’s just two different visions and so it’s two different options.”

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